Continue to Write Through Your Failures

Writing failures are like spilling your drink while dancing around the fire. You just keep dancing.

I’ve heard the sizzle of spilled drink many times, and then filled my cup again.

I was a painter once, for many years everyday life was about getting up and going to my studio, painting and working on canvasses for the next exhibition.

One day, I’d had had enough of painting, I decided that these characters in my head needed to come out and play.

I am glad that I finally stopped thinking about it, and just started to write.

I’ve never regretted sitting down and starting to write.

My idea back then, was to write about this Gypsy guy from Málaga, he wanted to become a businessman in Madrid, to make money, experience wealth and all the mainstream trappings that go with it.

I began writing, allowing him to tell his story. He ran away with me in a long winded dance around the camp fire.

I ended up writing chapters that were really short stories about Gito, my character. I loved him, I miss him. He was so full of life and taught me many things about writing.

He, Gito, taught me that I needed to have a pretty good idea about what Gito was going to do to get into business. I knew he had a broken heart, and there was a businessman in Madrid who who would become Gito’s nemesis.

But, I didn’t have a goal to write towards, I was enjoying the dance of words on the paper too much to take structures and progression in the story too seriously.

It took a while, but I soon realized that main characters need to have a burning desire to get somewhere or change something in the story. My characters didn’t have those things — none of them.

I hated the idea that I’d write about Gito wanting money for greed’s sake, that would guarantee a boring story. That’s a fact. Money is not power, characters need to empower themselves to change, money is just leverage towards power.

I kept writing about Gito and how he was edging his way into the Madrid business community, his nemesis was always there in the background, so a little practice at building tension came into the work.

But I couldn’t figure out the simplest thing in the world, how the hell can I make these two meet and find a point of importance between them. If I could do that, then the battle would begin. I knew that. But, alas, my brain blocked on this simple point of having them meet in an elevator going up to the top floor of a bank, or at a party, or finding out they had a friend in common. All these things are fine, my brain said, “naw, that’s not exciting.”

I kept writing little stories about Gito, they are good stories. They need my present knowledge to better them, though. I still read them sometimes and snigger at what a character he is, and how he can play-people like a master musician. What a guy.

I learned things writing about him, but made tons of mistakes. Those mistakes are gaping holes in the fabric of my story, I learned that I like telling long-short stories.

I learned that writing a novel first time round, is in fact an apprenticeship — the best way if you want to learn about who you are as a writer.

I certainly discovered that my native language is fascinating, and hard to master.

Language can be a deep dark set of tunnels to navigate, a wrong turn and a sentence turns into a long piece of rope that nobody wants to climb down.

I also learned not to take the internet grammar nazis and the one sentence advice givers seriously when they say, “write short sentences that a 14 year old can understand,” that’s selling yourself short as a writer — and anyway, I don’t think 14 year olds will read my books and stories.

I write for adults who went to university or are self taught, people who like reading stories and articles. Surely, they are able to understand a 20 word sentence without losing track.

Aim for a balance between long and short, is what I learned. If you write short, sharp sentences, and nothing else, then a reader’s gonna bang her head against the wall at some point or another.

Writing is long journey.

The internet is full advice about how to write, if you put it all together it will be a confusing mess, and no help. Finding good writing advice is like finding a doctor that listens to you and takes time to explain her procedures.

You and I have different ways to tell a story.

If you took my character Gito the Gypsy from Málaga, and wrote a story about him making it big in Madrid, all his ups and downs of battle and life, you would end up with a different story than mine.

A first attempt at a novel is about us finding out for the first time whether we are writers.

Whether we have what it takes to keep going, or if we are masochist who can’t quit on flogging a dead horse.

Good advice is good thinking material, but writing at our desks is the real place of learning. It’s from there that we can always refill our cup and enjoy the dance.

Written by

Berlin Notes — Writing about the Creative Art of Living http://seandurham.eu

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